Phantoms of the North: An Alice in Deadland Adventure (Alice, No. 6)

Phantoms of the North: An Alice in Deadland Adventure (Alice, No. 6) by Mainak Dhar

Book: Phantoms of the North: An Alice in Deadland Adventure (Alice, No. 6) by Mainak Dhar Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mainak Dhar
was
interrupted when one of the barns on the farm erupted in a spectacular
fireball.
    They had been storing some of
their reserves of fuel for the machines there and the resulting fireball sent
people scurrying for cover. A couple of bodies lay unmoving on the ground and
Alice wondered whether there had been an accident of some sort. People were now
running in a panic and Alice caught up with Arjun as he ran towards the fire.
    ‘Get the kids away and into the
main farm buildings. Get some water here and get someone to look at the
wounded!’
    As Alice approached the burning
barn, her assumption was that it had been an accident and the imperative was to
tend to the wounded and to control the fire. She passed Patricia, who was
walking around dazed, bleeding from a cut to the forehead. Haroula poured water
on the blaze with a bucket and Teresa helped the younger kids get away to
safety. Arjun was there, pulling one of the wounded men away, and Sayoni was
screaming for Aalok and asking passersby whether they had seen him.
    Alice picked up a bucket near the
water pump and went to the burning barn to help put out the fire. That was when
the unmistakable smoke trail of another RPG came snaking in towards the farm.
    They were under attack.
     
    ***
     
    SIX
     
    ‘Stop shooting! You’re wasting
your bullets. Get everyone to the far end of the farm while we get a plan.’
    The crescendo of automatic weapon
fire that had erupted from the defenders at the farm died down as people
scrambled back on Alice’s orders. Alice had worked back the position of the
shooters from the smoke trail, and through her night vision scope, she had got
a glimpse of movement. The rangefinder on the scope told her that the shooters
were at least a kilometer out. That in itself told her three things. One, they
were using advanced RPG launchers, not dissimilar to the ones she had seen used
by the Red Guards; two, they had night vision optics since they were shooting
with reasonable accuracy at dusk; and finally, the rifles Alice and her people
had would not reach them at such a range. They needed sniper rifles, and they
didn’t have time to get back to the armory in the city, and Salil, who was
carrying one, was still out on patrol.
    They had spotters out but they had
not counted on an enemy shooting rockets at them from more than a kilometer out
in the dark. Alice kicked herself for being lulled into a sense of complacency.
If these were the horsemen they had been waiting for, then they had better equipment
and tactics than any bandits out in the wasteland, and they were led by someone
who knew his stuff. Of course, admiration and appreciation of an adversary’s
capabilities is the first necessary step to figuring out how to kill him.
    Another rocket came in, this time
with a parabolic trajectory, implying the shooter had angled the launcher up,
sacrificing accuracy for range. Alice watched as the rocket arced over her and
landed in the fields behind. Then another rocket came in, landing close by.
What were these guys thinking? They could lob rockets in all night, without
causing much damage or casualties, and sooner or later they would have to run
out of rockets and either close in to engage or retreat.
    What kind of a strategy was that?
     
    ***
     
    Shock and awe.
    Those words had sounded great a
lifetime ago when The Khan had landed in Afghanistan to spearhead the War on
Terror as a rookie agent, with air strikes and cruise missiles battering the
enemy into submission. The end result of all that had been a quagmire, but the
strategy had been sound, it was the follow-through that had left much to be
desired.
    The Khan did not have bombers or
cruise missiles, but he had his own version of shock and awe: a small number of
RPG-29 launchers, taken from Libyan Army stocks, passed through various Al
Qaeda subsidiaries and then into the tribal belts of Pakistan where he had been
holed up after The Rising. The region was miserable—little by way

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